September 11, 2023
What an amazing day! Overnight we sailed from Venice to Zadar, Croatia.
When I first started looking at Croatia, I read about Plitvice National Park where there are waterfalls all around you. The cruise line did not offer an excursion, so I booked a separate private tour from Zadar. It wasn’t cheap - $570 for the two of us, but this was a must do for me.
We met our tour guide just off the ship, and our driver talked for a bit of the ride.
· Zadar has 75,000 residents, the 5th largest city in Croatia.
· They have very mild weather, because they are on the coast. We drove over the
Velebit Mountain, and they have snow in the winter there (just 30 minutes apart).
· 25% of the GDP comes from tourism
· People have been visiting here since the 1860s when Austrian aristocracy built roads.
· The park has 2 million visitors per year, and is 300 square km (116 square miles).
· There are upper lakes (limestone, bluer water) and lower lakes (dolomite, greenish water).
· In the past, dinosaurs lived on these lands.
· 200+ caves in the park, 90+ waterfalls.
· The water comes from two rivers and rain, and it takes about 24 hours to move through the park.
We had a 2 hour ride to the park. They had communicated earlier that I should get the park tickets, for an entry between 10 and 11am. We arrived at 10:15am and the driver left us with the tour guide and we went in.
It was beautiful! We walked briskly (except for all the photo stops), and took two boat rides in the park. We walked next to and over waterfalls and moving water. The walkways through most of the park were wooden “logs” fastened together. We went uphill (39 stories’ worth) and downhill, and walked over 5 miles. When we started it was lightly crowded, when we left (almost 2pm) it was getting very crowded.
The water was so absolutely and incredibly clear – I took a bunch of photos just showing how deep and clearly you could see in the water.
I did a few videos of the waterfalls, and just the sounds of moving water. Just beautiful.
Overall I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting Croatia!
Our guide called our driver and he picked us up and drove back to the city. I didn’t want to totally miss the city of Zadar, so this tour was supposed to be 9 am for 7 hours. I had contacted them and told them I booked a city tour at 4pm, so they picked us up at 8:30am just to be sure. We arrived in Zadar just after 3pm (and in hindsight we probably could have just tipped this guide a little more to show us the highlights of the city).
Croatia has more than 1,000 islands, and the oldest city is more than 3,000 years old. Some of the earlier cities were built in the 3rd century by the Romans as places for their soldiers to retire. The name Croatia first appeared in documents in the 6th century.
The “ownership” of the country changed hands many times. They often fought against the Venetian empire, until ironically one of their poorer leaders gave the city to Venice. After World War 1 this city was given to Austria (the rest of Croatia was not). More than 80% of it was bombed in World War 2, and much of the rebuilding was done in the 1960s. During the 1991 War for Independence, Zadar was never conquered.
We went into the city square, and she led us into a bar where on the other side are the remains of a hidden 11th century church.
The Forum area was the most interesting – there are just parts left. The original forum had marble columns made in Greece and shipped here. When they dug into the foundation of the church there, they found that it contained many pieces from the former Forum buildings.
We “limped” back to the ship – 22,000 steps, over 9 miles. Tomorrow – rest! Dinner and early to bed!
September 12, 2023
After so many days in a row on the go, we had a “down day” today. Slept late, got laundry done (in the free self-service laundry on board), caught up on some work and this journal, and overall just relaxed.
We did have a little treat this morning – last night during dinner, the captain made an announcement recommending that we be on deck at 7am to watch our entrance into the port for Sibenik. As much as we didn’t want to set an alarm, we did and were up on deck at 7am. It was a very unusual and pretty entrance – through islands on both sides, past the remains of a fortress. Worth getting up for (especially since we went back to bed after – LOL!).
The ship is in Sibenik Croatia, but we didn’t get off. Sibenik has a similar history to Zadar, and for a period of time was the home of the Croatian king (around 1066). It is reported to be a charming town, but we just needed a break.
After a couple days on board, we are not as wowed as we thought we’d be. Not sure if it’s coming off of the relaxed luxury of Avalon Waterways, or our expectations were just a bit high, but so far, not really impressed. The average passengers are definitely on the older side, although there are some younger couples and even some kids. The ship is nice and small – easy to walk. Our cabin is on deck 6, the main dining room, theater, and shops on deck 5, guest services on deck 4. The buffet and pool are on deck 9, as is the spa and fitness center. Forward on deck 10 is a large lounge with big windows.
The food is fine – the buffet is small but has a nice selection. The dining room menu is okay – so far haven’t been wowed by anything. The meal they prepared for me last night (Chinese noodles with shrimp and pork, made without the spices), had so much salt I couldn’t eat it. Tonight’s pre-ordered dinner was egg drop soup, which had no flavor at all. We asked if the head waiter had changed my restrictions to low salt after last night’s dinner, or no salt. They said it was changed to no salt. I said that was incorrect, so they said they got the message to the chef in time for my entrée (fish) to be adjusted. But the fish came out and it had no flavor, just a plain piece of fish. Vic’s beef stir fry didn’t taste well either, so we told the waiter we were going up to the buffet.
We went up to the buffet, and they had a “make to order” pad thai station, sushi (and they made us a custom roll), fried rice, and more options. We took our plates out to the outdoor dining area, and all the tables near the railing were already taken, as were the tables in the next row, so we took a table at the back. The head waiter came over and Vic asked about a table, so they picked up our table and moved it to the second row so we were closer. A few minutes later the Sous Chef from the main restaurant came up to us, and said he had heard we left the main dining room and asked what the problem with was wrong with our dinner. We explained and he said he would personally keep an eye on our meals going forward. The Sous Chef from the main dining room came up 4 decks during dinner to find us and speak to us? Really? Wow.
The head waiter in the buffet area was very helpful (Amit), and said if we wanted to eat up at the buffet he would serve me my meals up there. Since there are options, we think that’s what we’re going to do from here on.